Spring 2015

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21 SPRING 2015 / CINEMONTAGE by Peter Tonguette F or the first 10 days of their collaboration, composer Jack Nitzsche did not say more than two words to music editor Curt Sobel. Nitzsche and Sobel were thrust together on Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way (1981) after the music editor on several of the composer's most recent films, Dan Carlin, Jr., had become unavailable. Instead, Sobel — a relatively new hire at LaDa Productions, the company run by Carlin and his father, Dan, Sr. — drew the assignment. It took a while for Nitzsche, who had counted among his past collaborators Neil Young and the Rolling Stones, to warm up to Sobel. Over the course of the three-week scoring session, though, the two became close, and Nitzsche brought Sobel along on his next two films, David S. Ward's Cannery Row (1982) and Robert Towne's Personal Best (1982) — both of which, like Cutter's Way, were unusual films with idiosyncratic scores. Not so with their next project. As work was being concluded on Personal Best, Nitzsche took Sobel aside and said, "Okay, I got one more for us. It's called An Officer and a Gentleman, and I've seen the movie and it's going to be a lot of fun." By then, the two had developed a partnership in post-production. When director Taylor Hackford approached Nitzsche about scoring the film, the composer said that he wanted Sobel to again join him. "I went to Jack and asked him to do the film and he agreed, and said, 'Listen, I work with a music editor…,'" Hackford remembers. "I said, 'Well, fine — great.' And then I met Curt." As it turned out, An Officer and a Gentleman was enjoyable for more than just its makers; the film was a bona fide blockbuster on its debut in July 1982, becoming among the top-grossing films of the year and winning two Academy Awards (out of six nominations). Douglas Day Stewart's screenplay tells of Zack Mayo (Richard Gere), the footloose offspring of a US Navy enlistee (Robert Loggia). Dreaming of outdoing his dad, Zack sees a future as a Navy pilot, and to that end enters Aviation Officer Candidate School in the state of Washington. There, he encounters a surly but humane drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.), and a smart, prepossessing local girl, Paula (Debra Winger). With its sure-fire story arc (Zack not only graduates but also gets the girl), the film might have been a hit without Nitzsche. But his score — aided immeasurably by the resourceful contributions of Sobel — enhanced its emotional power. "Here was a film that was going to be a little MY MOST MEMORABLE FILM Curt Sobel on 'An Officer and a Gentleman' An Officer and a Gentleman, Paramount Pictures/ Photofest. Inset: Curt Sobel. Photo by Brett Sobel

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